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The moral obligation of melancholic people

Not very long ago it was not considered political to say we are defined by our obligations. Duties gave us direction, and focus, and made us rise at dawn, and they made us strong and kept us away from trouble

Your ‘inner voice’ is like Gollum in ‘Lord Of The Rings’. Photo: AFP
Your ‘inner voice’ is like Gollum in ‘Lord Of The Rings’. Photo: AFP

What is the moral obligation of the depressed?

Oh my god. Did you just say that?

What is the moral obligation of the unfortunate, the vulnerable, the troubled...

Please stop, please someone make him stop.

What is the moral obligation of the exiled and the marginalized? What exactly is the moral obligation of victims?

This is so repulsive. To ask this question, oh my god, this is so repulsive.

Who are you, by the way?

I am your Inner Voice.

You don’t sound like me.

I am posher than you, also emasculate and conscientious. You are asking terrible questions, you are a terrible man.

What is the moral obligation of the chronically ill? Do they not have a responsibility towards how they ingest antibiotics so that they don’t harm those who take good care of themselves? A world that is intoxicated with rights but has contempt for duties is a world in crisis. Is it so hard to accept, Inner Voice?

Such arguments are not about making sense. There is a particular kind of person who tries to make sense this way. Like Sardar Patel, who said, “Every Indian…has every right in his country but with certain duties." People who say such things actually believe duties are the only things that matter, and rights are a nuisance.

Look Inner Voice, not very long ago it was not considered political to say we are defined by our obligations—to our parents, sibling, teachers, society, language, religion, nation and the world. And finally to the universe which we fulfilled by trying to comprehend it to the best of our mental faculties. No one spoke of rights. My mother, who faced great adversity, toiled alone and gave me a mental picture to face life: wrestlers slapping their thighs and spitting on their palms to take on anything, and to perform our duties. Duties gave us direction, and focus, and made us rise at dawn, and they made us strong and kept us away from trouble.

You are completely wrong. That life is an obligation is a myth created by the upper class to control the rest.

No. The most beautiful thing about life is that it is a debt.

Life is a lottery.

Life is a debt.

Life is a lottery.

Those who know life is a debt can find meaning because they have to then repay the debt to the universe and you fill your life with purpose. Without meaning, Inner Voice, we will be lost in the vast terrifying emptiness of freedom and pleasure.

Art is meaning. What you think is the lament of art is meaning. Great beauty comes out of it. In reality, it is the strong who are doomed. In a world that is in the spell of stories, even when they are not called stories, it is the people who have the talent for strength who are doomed. Strong people tell bad stories.

Even so, Inner Voice, what is the moral obligation of the weak?

This guy is insufferable.

Do people who are suicidal, who are innately disenchanted with the world, because of their mental states, do such people have a responsibility to ensure they are not exploited by activists and politicians? If they don’t fall for shrill campaigns against economic ideas, political ideas, technology, privacy, science, they will create a deep sane silence where the happier can hear the sounds of truth.

If you have the sense to understand human beings through rights and not duties, you will realize that people have a right to be what they are. They have a right to be influenced by their “mental states", and to be swayed by emotions; in effect people have a right to be human. That is the very meaning of being human. Life is not science, life is a sway of sentiments and moods.

Rubbish. That humans are meant to be imperfect is our greatest bullshit, on a par with “RTs are not endorsements". It is an excuse not to ask difficult questions. What is the moral obligation of a farmer?

Don’t even go there.

Surely they have a moral obligation not to burn crop stubble because their attempt to save some money kills people, destroys the lungs of children. Actually, why is it that a profession that consumes almost all of the world’s fresh water to create harmful but profitable food like high-starch grains and sugar, does not have a moral obligation?

This is as dumb as saying people have a duty to stay away from their rights. This is an impossible argument.

Consider Auguste Comte. The compassionate should love him. After all he invented “sociology". He said individualism is a disease. He created a sect called “Positivism", which even came with its own attire that had buttons only in the back so that an individual would not be able to wear it without assistance. According to him, humans are a community and an individual, as a unit, only had obligations. According to him, we began to get confused after someone invented rights.

He also said we will never figure out the materials that make up the planets of our solar system, and 20 years later we were doing just that. He doesn’t seem like a smart man.

What is that sound?

I already told you, “your Inner Voice".

No you made a sound.

I make sounds, that’s why I am called Inner Voice.

No it was a specific sound. It was exactly what Gollum, the creature in the film Lord Of The Rings, makes when he wants to persuade Frodo to keep the power of the ring for himself.

Alright, I admit I made that creepy whispery sound. “Master".

That’s the exact sick sound.

Master, stop asking the vulnerable about their obligations.

Go away voice from Lord Of The Rings.

Stop being an obsolete writer and start to think like an activist.

Go away Inner Voice.

That’s where the future of writing is. Be smart, Master, ask how can you use the vulnerable to secure great power for yourself. Think about it. All you have to do is pick a side.

That’s it?

Yes, just pick a side and don’t piss them off. Then you can write any lazy stuff and they will give you donations.

Now I am getting tempted.

Yes, Master, think. If you pander to the miserable, together we will rule the world.

And a great demonic laughter fills our heads.

Manu Joseph is a journalist and a novelist, most recently of Miss Laila, Armed And Dangerous.


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